Rotorua's Rim reforms National Maori Choir for WOMAD

By Sonya Bateson

After being dormant for the past 10 years, the Aotearoa Maori Choir is about to erupt into life again with the help of Rotorua musician Rim D Paul.

The choir is being reformed for the WOMAD - World Of Music, Arts and Dance - festival in March and organisers hope the choir will perform in a number of prestigious events in the coming years, including a sold-out performance in Rotorua's St Faith's Church next month.

Rim D Paul, born Rimini Dennis Paul, was raised in Rotorua. When he left school he joined his father's band, Tai Paul and his Pohutu Boys, and was part of the Quin Tikis - a showband he performed with for three years before embarking on a solo career.

Mr Paul said the National Maori Choir, which began in the 1990s, was active for more than a decade before becoming "dormant".

Mr Paul said he was asked to reform the choir by the general manager of Toi Maori Aotearoa for the WOMAD festival.

"He asked if it was possible. I said I don't want to reform the choir just for that purpose, if there was a way to sustain the choir then I would be happy to put it together."

Toi Maori Aotearoa offered to help with administration, seeking funding and other logistical work, which Mr Paul accepted.

"We've started pulling it together over the last six or so weeks, I've been looking after the Rotorua choir while others in Whakatane, Hamilton, Taranaki, Northland and a couple of other areas like the South Island will be contributing people."

Mr Paul said it would be difficult choosing the 80 people needed for the choir groups.

"We get probably about 120 people.

"We have to cut that down to 80 so have to just pick the best of the bunch."

Mr Paul said the philosophy of the choir was if each of the 10 waka were represented, then that embraced the whole of Maoridom.

"That's what we go for rather than trying to have people from different iwi and hapu."

They will perform at WOMAD with The Yoots, a band made up of members of Fat Freddy's Drop, Phoenix Foundation and The Black Seeds.

"They play our popular Maori songs and the Maori Choir will sing along. When they first heard us, the band were just overwhelmed by just two dozen of the choir - they kept reminding themselves there would be 80 of us," he said.

The Maori Choir will perform a pre-WOMAD performance at St Faith's Church on December 8.

Mr Paul said the concert would feature Dame Malvina Major and the Howard Morrison Trio. Tickets have already sold out.

Mr Paul also hoped the Maori Choir would perform at the 100-year anniversary of the Anzac campaign in World War I in 2014.

He hoped to sing songs written in the area, some by 28th Maori Battalion soldiers, at the Gallipoli commemorations.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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